Somebody was nice enough to post this in the comments here a while back. it’s Negri’s take on the U.S. elections. I think it’s worth reading. Negri’s right about three important points. 1. Obama’s election is good in terms of race (it could be put to bad use as a denial of structural racism, we should expect this, but a black president is a blow to white supremacy to some extent). 2. War and the financial crisis are major problems. 3. Obama’s election is the result of a long history of struggles.

Here’s what confusing or wrong.

50 years ago this struggle begun in the United States, and now it has arrived to express itself. Behind this victory there is the great multitudinarian struggle, or more precisely, the sum of three struggles, at least: the class struggle, the gender struggle and the “race” struggle.

(…)

An epochal transformation in which the protagonists are the millions of people who have brought this result. In this sense, the rise of Obama has many times been paralleled to the New Deal, to the force through which the New Deal opened class conflicts, around the theme of welfare and keynesianism. What kind of points of contact and above all, what kind of differences are there today?

We all know what New Deal has been. A ruling class which, in the middle of an economic crisis determined by a capitalist development of over-production and by a falsification of al

l the facts of real economy, managed to invent the re-opening of class struggle. It was the reconstruction of consumption inside a

working class which had been exploited and marginalized by grand mechanisms of development. This new deal had profoundly democratic characteristics: the re-opening of class struggle meant for Roosevelt to put the U.S. Constitution in action again and therefore also an utopian and ideal proposal for the whole world. A world which was infected by fascism – it is necessary to remember that the new deal arrives in the historical moment where class struggle was fundamental in order to strike down fascism, even the bourgeoisie understood this.

Today the differences are enormous, because now the struggles are multitudinarian; in fact, they take place and they develop on the entire terrain of society: there’s not only class struggle, there’s also the race struggle and the gender struggle. At least these three elements represent struggles which advance to construct common realities through which it becomes possible to overcome the uncertainty, fear, misery and poverty which capitalism determines with its development.

First off, I think Obama’s election is a product of struggles, but I don’t like the language ‘expression’ of struggle, if that’s meant to imply that Obama’s election represents the interests of these struggles. That may be trivial. Likewise possibly trivial, second, I don’t like the characterization of the New Deal as opening up conflicts. What does Negri think was happening in the 10s and 20s? And there’s little recognition here of the New Deal as channeling and shaping struggles as much as it facilitated them. Third, and I think more important, I don’t like the distinction of class vs race vs gender. It’s inaccurate for past struggles (such that if class+race+gender is an index of multitude-ness then there’s been multitude-ness for a long time running, not just in the new epoch Negri sees), and I think it’s overly neat for the present: these are important divisions in the present working class not in the exact same way but in similar ways to they were division in the working class in the prior epoch Negri thinks has ended. That is, bad on the prior epoch, bad on divisions within the working class in the present.

Advertisements